The independent Angiolini Inquiry was commissioned to uncover circumstances that led to the abduction, rape and murder of Sarah Everard by a police officer

The crimes committed by Wayne Couzens against Sarah shocked the nation and undermined public confidence in the police. Since 2021, the government has been driving forward a body of work to strengthen the way police officers are vetted, scrutinised and disciplined, and more broadly, efforts to put a stop to violence against women and girls. 

However, the report today highlights the need for further action and the government, in tandem with policing partners, will thoroughly consider the recommendations made by Lady Elish and respond in full in due course. 

Huge strides have already been taken in rooting out officers not fit to wear the badge and bolstering safeguards to prevent the wrong people joining the force. This includes the largest ever integrity screening of all serving officers and staff conducted by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and strengthening the requirements on officer vetting. 

The government is bringing forward legislation that will make it easier to sack officers who fail to hold basic vetting when re-checked, as well as anyone found guilty of gross misconduct. 

Since 2021, the Home Office has provided funding towards a new Violence Against Women and Girls Policing Taskforce, to implement a new police strategy for improving the response to domestic abuse, rape, sexual offences and stalking. As part of this, a national policing role was created to help transform and coordinate the police response nationwide, taken up by Deputy Chief Constable Maggie Blyth.  

To further support victims, the government is also funding Operation Soteria, a programme which brings together academics and police forces, to radically transform the way police and the Crown Prosecution Service investigate rape. All police forces and prosecutors in England and Wales are now six months into implementing the National Operating Model, with the number of cases assigned a charge in the latest quarter being over 30 per cent higher than the same period in the previous year. 

Furthermore, we have classified violence against women and girls as a national threat, meaning the police must prioritise their response to it, just as they do with threats like terrorism. We expect that all sexual offending, including for cases where there is no contact like indecent exposure, are taken very seriously by the police. It is paramount for victims to have the confidence to report these offences, knowing they will get the support they need and that everything will be done to bring offenders to justice. 

As part of these reforms we are already implementing, we are setting out further changes to the police disciplinary system today which will mean that any officer charged with an indictable offence will be automatically suspended from duty until an outcome is reached.

Home Secretary James Cleverly said:  

The act of pure evil committed against Sarah shocked the nation to its core. My heart goes out to Sarah’s family and to all the brave victims who came forward to help inform this report and drive change.  

The man who committed these crimes is not a reflection on the majority of dedicated police officers working day in, day out to help people. But Sarah was failed in more ways than one by the people who were meant to keep her safe, and it laid bare wider issues in policing and society that need to be urgently fixed. 

In the three years since, a root and stem clean-up of the policing workforce has been underway and we have made huge strides – as well as making tackling violence against women and girls a national policing priority to be treated on par with terrorism. 

But we will continue to do everything in our power to protect women and girls. I am grateful to Lady Elish for her meticulous investigation. Her insights will be invaluable as we move forward in supporting our police to build forces of the highest standards of integrity and regain the trust of the British public.

Since March 2021 the government has:  

  • carried out a review of the police dismissals process, following which we are making a number of changes to the misconduct system. These include handing responsibility for chairing misconduct panels to chief officers, introducing a presumption of dismissal for gross misconduct, and clarifying the pathway to dismiss officers who fail vetting
  • Commissioned His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) to inspect vetting and counter-corruption arrangements, including what forces are doing to identify and deal with misogynistic behaviour. The inspection was published in November 2022 and a rapid review in May 2023 showed that progress is being made by forces
  • asked the College of Policing to strengthen the statutory code of practice for police vetting, making the obligations all forces must legally follow stricter and clearer. The updated code was published in July 2023
  • agreed to provide £500,000 to policing to develop a continuous integrity screening system for the workforce, building on the NPCC’s national datawash exercise, which will help them to receive intelligence at speed to identify where action needs to be taken on individuals
  • invested in a National Centre for Police Leadership through the College of Policing to develop standards and a leadership development framework at all ranks
  • through the Criminal Justice Bill, we will be introducing an organisational duty of candour for policing. This will ensure that Chief Constables have a duty to ensure candour within the forces they lead

Tackling violence against women and girls (VAWG) is a priority for this government and since March 2021 we have:  

  • published our cross-government tackling violence against women and girls strategy to help ensure that women and girls are safe everywhere – at home, online, at work and on the streets. This includes a range of crime types, including contact and non-contact sexual offences
  • published our Tackling Domestic Abuse Plan, which committed to invest £230 million to tackle these crimes
  • provided an additional £2 million of funding for the “flexible fund”, making direct payments to domestic abuse victims to help them leave abusive relationships and rebuild their lives
  • unveiled new protections for women and girls online. Our new Criminal Justice Bill builds on the Online Safety Act by strengthening the law on taking intimate images without consent. The Online Safety Act has made ‘cyberflashing’ a criminal offence
  • funded “perpetrator intervention” projects which aim to stop domestic abusers and stalkers from repeatedly targeting victims
  • strengthened police powers to manage registered sex offenders. We already have some of the most robust mechanisms in the world for managing sex offenders, but to further protect the public, and especially women and girls, from sexual predators, we are giving police greater powers to prevent offenders from changing their name in order to evade detection. This will be introduced via an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill
  • added violence against women and girls to the Strategic Policing Requirement – meaning it is now set out as a national threat for forces to respond to, alongside other serious threats like terrorism 
  • invested over £156 million through five rounds of the Safer Streets Fund and Safety of Women at Night Fund, which has included funding for a range of projects with a focus on protecting women in their communities across England and Wales
  • we also launched an online StreetSafe tool which enables the public to anonymously report areas where they feel unsafe and to identify what about the location made them feel this way
  • supported the introduction of a NPCC VAWG Taskforce which works to provide national coordination in driving the policing response to VAWG. It has been working closely with government since 2021
  • to further support victims, pioneering Crown Prosecution Service areas, police forces and leading academics developed a new National Operating Model for the investigation of rape and serious sexual offences, and all police forces and prosecutors in England and Wales are implementing it. This brings police and prosecutors working more closely together to build stronger cases which focus on the behaviour of the suspect, and place victims at the heart of the response
  • launched a multi-million, long-term nationwide behaviour change campaign, ‘Enough’, to deliver a generational shift in the attitudes and behaviours that underpin the abuse of women and girls  

The Angiolini Inquiry is carrying out further investigations to examine the horrific case of former Metropolitan Police Service officer and serial sexual offender, David Carrick, and part 2 of the Inquiry which is considering systemic issues in policing such as vetting, recruitment and culture, as well as the safety of women in public spaces.

Published 29 February 2024